Online Reviews [TEXT]
People who post online reviews—on sites like Angie’s List, Google, Porch, Facebook, Houzz and Yelp—generally are motivated by a very good or a very bad experience with the contractor. It might save you some headaches in the long run if you look at both.
Here are a few things to look for when reading online reviews:
- Contractors who post reviews on their own websites typically will share only the good ones. Some contractors supply links to good reviews about them on other sites, too. Read them, but search for others that the company did not point to, so you’ll get a more complete picture.
- What did the reviewers say about the things you care about? Some will note that they were happy or unhappy with the work and the service. Those vague posts aren’t worth much when you’re deciding which contractor to invite inside your home. Look for posts that address how much the company charged; if it returned calls and responded to complaints promptly; if the crew cleaned up after itself and treated the homeowner politely; how long the firm has been in business; and whether the contractor did the work on time and within budget.
- Did the company respond to the negative reviews that its customers posted? Contractors who care about their clients embrace those bad comments as an opportunity to make things right. Did the contractor offer to work something out with the unhappy customer? Or did he argue, insist he didn’t do anything wrong, belittle the reviewers or accuse them of lying? Avoid the latter. That contractor will do the same thing to you.
- Were the reviews anonymous? Look for websites that are verified as consumer-driven. A plus: Some contractor review sites require posters to use their real names. That encourages reviewers to be more honest and greatly reduces the chance for fake reviews.
- Rely on the actual reviews, not just how many stars a customer offers. Rating systems vary so much from site to site that it’s not possible to understand exactly what three out of five stars means to any given reviewer. It’s easier to glean a reviewer’s meaning by reading what the poster wrote about the contractor.
Don’t stop your research with online reviews. Check the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau and verify that the contractor has a state license for the kind of work you need at your home.
These credentials, combined with recommendations from people you know and online reviews that offer substantive information, can help you narrow your choices to contractors who seem trustworthy, qualified and respectful of their customers.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914.